In my last post, we learned The King of Ashur Threatens Yerushalayim ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 36:1-10. In this post, we complete the examination of The King of Ashur Threatens Yerushalayim ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 36:11-22.
11 Elyakim, Shevnah, and Yo’ach said to Rav-Shakeh, “Please speak to your servants in Aramaic since we understand it; don’t speak to us in Hebrew while the people on the wall are listening.” 12 But Rav-Shakeh answered, “Did my master send me to deliver my message just to your master and yourselves? Didn’t he send me to address the men sitting on the wall, who, like you, are going to eat their own dung and drink their own urine?”
When the people of Yerushalayim began to sit on the wall in order to listen to the conversation taking place between Sancheriv’s and Hizkiyahu’s negotiators, Hizkiyahu’s men asked that they be spoken to in Aramaic lest the Jewish populace become demoralized. However, it served Rav-Shakeh’s propagandistic purpose to have the people hear and be frightened by the coming Ashurim army, so he refused this request. He reminded them of the consequences of a long siege. They would run out of water and have to drink their urine; they would run out of food and have to eat their excrement.
13 Then Rav-Shakeh stood up and, speaking loudly in Hebrew, said: “Hear what the great king, the king of Ashur, says! (emphasis added.)
As exemplified by Rav-Shakeh, a big mouth is often indicative of a wicked heart. When someone has to speak loudly to make himself heard, there’s usually something amiss in his heart. [The exemption is those of us who are very hard of hearing and may not even know we are talking loudly.]
14 This is what the king says: ‘Don’t let Hizkiyahu deceive you, because he won’t be able to save you. 15 And don’t let Hizkiyahu make you trust in Adonai by saying, “Adonai will surely save us; this city will not be given over to the king of Ashur.”
Again Rav-Shakeh mocked the idea of trusting in Adonai to rescue Y’hudah from Ashur. But as the previous chapters have asserted many times, trusting Adonai is precisely what the people of Y’hudah should do in this situation.
16 Don’t listen to Hizkiyahu.’ For this is what the king says: ‘Make peace with me, surrender to me. Then every one of you can eat from his vine and fig tree and drink the water in his own cistern, 17 until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land with grain and wine, a land with bread and vineyards.
Ashur’s imperialistic policy called for the deportation of a subjugated people. Rav-Shakeh presented his ultimatum for surrender. For the time being, the Y’hudahim would stay in their land, but after a while, they would be deported to another area. Such a policy was put into place in 722 BCE when the Ashurim conquered the northern kingdom and deported the vast majority of the native population and then brought in foreigners to live there. This policy was intended to break the connection between a people and the god of their land.
18 Beware of Hizkiyahu; he is only deluding you when he says, “Adonai will save us.” Has any god of any nation ever saved his land from the power of the king of Ashur?
Rav-Shakeh does just what HaSatan does to us. First, he plants a question in the ears of the people of Yerushalayim concerning their king. HaSatan attempts to deceive us at every turn. Rav-Shakeh argued that the Adonai could not save Y’hudah any more than the gods of other nations and cities that had been defeated by Ashur.
19 Where are the gods of Hamat and Arpad? Where are the gods of S’farvayim? Did they save Shomron from my power? 20 Where is the god of any of these countries that has saved its country from my power, so that Adonai might be able to save Yerushalayim from my power?’”
Rav-Shakeh specifically mentioned the defeat of three cities whose gods were unable to rescue their inhabitants. Arpad and Hamat were cities in northern Syria known to have been defeated by Ashur at an earlier time. The exact identification of S’farvayim is unknown.
21 But they kept still and didn’t answer him so much as a word, for the king’s order was, “Don’t answer him.” 22 Then Elyakim the son of Hilkiyahu, who was in charge of the household, Shevnah the general secretary and Yo’ach the son of Asaf, the foreign minister went to Hizkiyahu with their clothes torn and reported to him what Rav-Shakeh had said. ~ Isaiah 36:11-22 (CJB)
Hizkiyahu did not give his officials authority to negotiate with Ashur. They reported the proceedings to the king. Their clothes that were torn were a common sign of mourning, showing their deep distress.
In my next post, we learn about Yerushalayim’s Deliverance Foretold in Yesha’yahu 37.